Butternut Squash Soup

Abraham Maslow said that it’s better to make a first-rate soup than a second-rate painting, and if your artistic talent is anything like mine, you’ll find that making a superior soup is a lot easier than crafting even a passable pencil sketch. Well, Thanksgiving is ‘round the bend, and if ever there was a time for a simple-to-make (but still first-rate) holiday soup, this is it. And what’s more, you can make it ahead of time, freeze it in batches, and use some for Christmas - or a quick mid-week meal during the bleak winter’s pale.

I’ve adapted this recipe from my favorite cookbook – Simple to Spectacular, by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and noted New York Times columnist Mark Bittman. If you haven’t seen the book, it’s a must-read. Each recipe has five variations, from the easy and quick (Simple) to the wickedly complex, takes-three-days-to-prepare fabulous (Spectacular). As you progress through the recipes, you build on the techniques you learn along the way – brilliant. And even the basic recipes are delicious.

So today I’m going to share two variations on the best of Thanksgiving dishes: Butternut Squash Soup. The first is ridiculously simple to prepare, and delicious; the second, with only a little extra effort (roasting the squash first) adds a depth and complexity that will earn you a chef’s reputation and dazzle even the most skeptical of in-laws.

Variation 1:

2 lbs Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
4 cups Chicken or Vegetable stock
Salt and Pepper

  1. Put the squash, stock, and salt and pepper (to taste) in a saucepan; bring it to a boil, and then simmer it on low for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is very tender.
  2. Puree the squash (with a little bit of the stock) in a blender until it’s very smooth. Add the puree back into the stockpot with the remaining stock, and stir it in. Season as needed – and don’t be shy with the pepper! This soup likes a little heat

Variation 2:

2 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 Teaspoons minced garlic
2 lbs Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, or small diced chile
2 Teaspoons thyme leaves
Salt and Pepper
4 cups Chicken or Vegetable stock
About 1/2 cup of heavy cream (optional)
4 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 450. On the stove, in an oven-proof skillet, sauté the garlic, and squash over medium heat. Add the red pepper flakes (or cayenne), thyme, and salt and pepper (to taste). Continue to cook, stirring often, until the squash begins to brown – about 10 minutes should do it.
  2. Transfer the skillet to the oven, and cook for another 15 minutes at 450F.
  3. Relocate the skillet back to the stovetop, add the stock, and cook over medium heat until the squash is tender, another 15 minutes or so.
  4. Puree the squash (with a little bit of the stock) in a blender until it’s very smooth. Add the puree back into the stockpot with the remaining stock, and stir it in. Season as needed – but this time you used red pepper flakes, so there’s already some heat there. Pepper with caution! Just before serving, stir in some cream, if using. Serve with some Parmesan grated over each bowl.

Now remember, this soup freezes like gangbusters – so make it ahead of time, make plenty, and freeze it until you want to use it. One tip: if you decide to freeze it, hold off on adding the cream until you’ve reheated it on the stovetop. Cream doesn’t freeze so well, and the late addition of fresh cream to the soup gives it a smooth succulence that your guests will love! So there you have it – super easy, insanely delicious Butternut Squash Soup for your holiday meal. It is a great addition to your holiday buffet, or served in espresso cups (or coffee mugs) as a sippable appetizer during your pre-meal munching.

This is a Free Range Chick Guest Post by Alec Wild 

For more Thanksgiving recipes, tips & tricks and crafts, stop over and check out the Free Range Feast series on FreeRangeChick.com

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